Tainted Sharif losing public sympathy

The Sharif team made a spirited defence but could not produce a witness to clear the former PM's name.

Birthday celebrations will be muted for former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday after an accountability court handed him a seven-year jail term in a corruption case. Sharif, who will turn 69 today, will be driven to prison to serve the first day of his sentence. The court also ordered that his properties be seized and he pay Rs1.5 billion in fines for allegedly owning assets beyond his means. The former PM is clearly on the mat after this legal blow, and it is unlikely that he will ever run for office again as this verdict puts his team in a judicial corner.
Sharif was unable to justify the source of income to set up the Al Azizia and Hill Metal Establishment in Saudi Arabia, the court concluded, while acquitting him in the Flagship Investments case. But that is small consolation for the former PM who has his hands full fending off corruption cases. Adding to his woes an activist judiciary appears to be in no mood to spare the politician-businessman for past deals, even though investments like Al Azizia were allegedly done by his father.
The Sharif team made a spirited defence but could not produce a witness to clear the former PM's name. Sharif and his family have been traditionally wealthy and it is no secret that he used this wealth to gain a foothold in politics and even make a comeback after being sent into exile by a military government under General Pervez Musharraf. He managed bail in an earlier case involving the purchase of luxury flats in London for which he was given a 10-year sentence.
Last year, he was disqualified from office. His party lost the elections to Imran Khan's PTI this year. His daughter and son-in-law are also battling corruption cases and have been handed prison terms. There is talk of a judiciary-military nexus to nail Sharif, and the hurry with which cases have been pushed do raise suspicions. The former PM is losing public sympathy though his party remains a strong player in Punjab. Credit is due to current PM Imran Khan who made Sharif the brand ambassador of corruption, and the taint has stuck. With the masses now touchy about graft, Sharif appears a misfit for the politics of Naya (new) Pakistan.

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